Tuesday, March 13, 2012

What’s in an Identity?

Let me start out this blog post by saying that I am in no way claiming to be the slightest bit cool or hip. I am quite aware of the fact that I’m a pretty big dork and on a good day I can barely get myself dressed. I’m okay with that. But I think most of us can agree that in order to survive and be happy with who we are as people, everyone has to have some illusion that they think themselves interesting or cool. We all shape our identities in different ways, whether it’s comprised by the way we dress, who our friends are, what we do for a living, where we live, hobbies, etc, or all of the above. Or, maybe it’s a sense of what we want and strive to be. Whatever, you get my drift.

At 33 (almost 34!) years old I feel like I’ve gained a pretty good sense of my own identity. Or, at least I thought I did. But recently since I’ve given up most every possession I owned, moved away from all my friends and family, quit my job, etc., I find myself sort of in a new identity crisis. I mean, what makes me me? And, this hit me in the oddest of ways. I find myself watching burned copies of TV shows and I do what many people probably do, I pick out the things I see that I like and could see myself doing, wearing, buying, etc. Even if in reality I’ll never own any of the things I see, I always enjoy looking at stuff and picking out what I like. “Oh, I like that shirt,” I think. Or “that’s a cute haircut.” So I’m doing this the other night while watching a show and then I remember that I’m living in Tanzania and I don’t have access to pretty much any of those things. I can’t just go to Target and pick up a new outfit or go online and find a great sale to update my wardrobe. And not only that, even if I had access to these things I like, I might not even be able to wear that shirt or have that certain style because it’s too low-cut for this culture or it would be seen as totally inappropriate here. And it all just kind of makes me sad, like I can’t be who I want to be. But then I think, well that’s really stupid and superficial. The way I dress or my style (more accurately, my lack of style) doesn’t make me me. So, what gives?

I have given up so many little and big things to do this one gigantic thing that is living and working in Tanzania. And yes, I’m sure my “Tanzania experience” will certainly add to my sense of self and identity. But because of all the things I’ve given up to be here, to have this one big identity marker, I find myself rattling around in the emptiness. I feel a little anchor-less.

I’m sure that in time, as I get used to my new life, I’ll solidify my “Tanzanian identity” and I’ll move right along as if nothing ever changed. But for now I’m trying to embrace the emptiness, as difficult as that is, and listen to its messages for me.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Oh Katie, you always know the right things to say. I have felt "anchor-less" during my entire tenure in my doctoral program too. I hope you can continue to search out yourself and consider all those things that make us who we are. I'd say that from an outsiders view, damn girl, your identify is quite wrapped up in just doing all those things to get to where you are and being in Tanzania right now. Maybe you'll be able to help the rest of us sort out what "things" helps show others who we are, although I think that your actions prove more your identity than anything. I am sure our books and music and cookbooks are all markers....and you're not one to just rattle on about yourself and who you are to people you just me....be patient, after some time as you make more friends and do your work, I am betting these feelings will subside. You are a brilliant, creative, amazing woman....I think that God lets that shine through your smile and your work and your commitment!!!!-Love, Kaiser